Time and time again this government has siphoned money out of the exchequer to redistribute it to their chums. Albeit, chums that were promising to deliver a product or service to alleviate the pandemic, but which almost always turned out to be entirely unfit for purpose. By October, this policy of “pandemic profiteering”, or to put it a little more plainly, embezzling public funds during a public health disaster was being estimated to have reached roughly £1bn over the course of 2020.
And this was before the most recent outing of the University of Oxford / AstraZeneca deal had been factored into those figures. The reason I think this most recent deal is so interesting is because with only the most cursory of glances fairly large warning signs seem to appear, warning signs that if ignored will determine which of our families, friends and neighbours are likely to survive the next 12 months.
Before getting into the justification of using a phrase like embezzling public funds I think the best place to start is with the track records of the main players.
It was the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that advised the UK government to approve the use of the University of Oxford /AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination. The MHRA is one of the lesser known government agencies, and unless you have an interest in healthcare regulation, you are unlikely to know much about it.
Much of the healthcare regulatory framework that we see today really came into being under New Labour, building on what the Tories had done during the late 80s and 90s, with the intention of further accelerating the piece-meal privatisation of the NHS also started under the Tories.
The MHRA first hit the headlines back in 2012 when an article in the Lancet accused the agency of “paralysis and inability to address the shortcomings of a badly flawed system”. This article was in response to the hundreds of thousands of dangerously inferior Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP) breast implants that had been carried out in England with the approval of the MHRA. An implant, which if you remember, had twice the likelihood of rupturing than the other brands available at the time.
But I am sure many would say that this is ancient history, and as is often argued, needs to be put behind us. I am sure this is the case for the MHRA, but most probably less so for the victims of the MHRA’s failure to effectively regulate medicines and healthcare products in the UK. So moving on, perhaps it is worth looking at the current MHRA who actually approved the University of Oxford / AstraZeneca product.
Because the MHRA is technically a division of the Department of Health there has to be a declaration of interests from their most senior staff. And this is where things start to get very interesting. Two of the Non-executive Directors, Amanda Calvert and Anne-Tone Rodgers, are both current shareholders of AstraZeneca.
That is the same AstraZeneca that has been promised hundreds of millions of pounds of UK taxpayers money, a UK government funded worldwide PR campaign promoting it, and the almost guaranteed billions of pounds in contracts from other governments off the back of that campaign, all based on the decision of the MHRA.
Is there a case to be answered that some might be engaged, wittingly or unwittingly, in embezzling public funds? I am no contract lawyer, so I wouldn’t even want to take a guess at what constitutes and what doesn’t constitute embezzling public funds. But as an interested party impacted directly by these decisions, I would like to see some sort of public inquiry. And not just the usual government flannel, but rather something managed by the public as opposed to parties subject to the inquiry, and ideally covering all of the government contracts, approvals and policies over the last 12 months.
After all, this is not just about a couple of people at the MHRA whose financial future is so closely tied to the profitability of AstraZeneca, the current economic system means that many of the 1% will have their retirement plans also closely tied to the profitability of AstraZeneca.
Although due to the nature of the financial system this will be far harder to track. After all, the AstraZeneca list of institutional shareholders reads like a who’s who of investment banking monoliths. Companies such as Blackrock, Vanguard Group, and Fidelity Management. All of whom demonstrate a tendency to nudge politicians around the world in the directions that best suit their investors.
The sad truth is, that it is no longer particularly controversial to point out how corrupt the ruling class is in the UK, or for that matter the plutocratic nature of the so-called democracy in this country. There is however another interesting facet to this story. And one that is a little less obvious. There are two key players involved in the development of this product, and one of them is by no means a traditional ‘for-profit’ type of organisation.
The University of Oxford has been the cornerstone of the class system in the UK for centuries now. And while it is perhaps more acceptable to say that in relation to the past, the truth of the matter is that little has changed in the last fifty years. Our current crop of overlords are disproportionately trained at the University of Oxford. The current cabinet has 7 University of Oxford alumni, including not least of all the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary. And even the current Chief Executive of the MHRA who also studied medicine at the University of Oxford.
And how will the University of Oxford benefit from this particular set of government decisions? The reality is that the approval of this product is likely to pump hundreds of millions, if not billions of public money, into the coffers of the very University that continues to populate the decision making positions of the power structure. This is likely to be one of the biggest single investments in the future of the british ruling class in history.
But look, arguably all this talk of are they or aren’t they embezzling public funds is less relevant than if the product itself is the best option available.
In terms of the efficacy of this “vaccine” in relation to the other vaccines coming on to the market, according to the most recent public discussions it doesn’t seem to be that great. A report in the Guardian at the beginning of December said that the best results it had achieved to date, and this was only in a very small group, was only 90% efficacy. And even that figure dropped to 70% when averaged across multiple trials in the UK and Brazil. And to make matters worst, that wasn’t even at the dosage approved by the MHRA, which only reached 62% efficacy.
So why are so many intelligent and educated people telling me that this particular vaccine is the magic bullet when it doesn’t even to compare to what else is now available? It is difficult to answer that without asking a follow-on question.
How easy is it to get access to this sort of information that I am quoting and linking to here? With no insult intended, it is only difficult if you insist on sitting passively accepting what is repeated from the press releases across the mainstream media. For instance the BBC described the Oxford /AstraZeneca vaccine as “highly effective”, in an article which even compared it to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Which lest we forget, have both reported 95% efficacy.
That is a 33% difference, or 1 in 3 people. Look around your next Zoom meeting and shut off the video stream of every third window. That is what this means in the long term. That is the potential impact of the decision made by this government to promote an inferior product. And again, the reality isn’t hidden. There is no shadowy cabal playing dress-up and spanking each other in darkened rooms while conspiring against the rest of us. This is happening in the open, in front of all of us.
When asked about how the Oxford / AstraZeneca product compares to the other vaccines one of the lead researchers at the University of Oxford argued that one should not judge the potential long term efficacy of vaccines over a very short time period. This of course would explain why the management team in charge of the Oxford /AstraZeneca product have been so carefully framing their claims in subtle caveats such as they won’t know how effective it is until millions of people have been taking it and we have let enough time pass to see how many people die. I am not a scientist, but I was under the impression that this is what trials are for, to avoid killing members of the public if it can be avoided. And make no mistake, it can be avoided.
If the University of Oxford team thinks that their vaccine will prove to be more effective in 6 months time than the others, then surely they should carry on developing and monitoring it over longer studies in order to prove exactly that. If they are unable to demonstrate that now, then based on the current available evidence it is simply a far less effective solution. An inferior product, if you will.
Some have even recognised these flaws in the focus on efficacy, arguing that secondary considerations should be prioritised over efficacy instead. However, regardless of how easy it is to produce or transport or store, if it doesn’t do the job it is meant to do, then it is unfit for the purpose that it is intended for. Storage and transport are secondary considerations, and are therefore only relevant if it meets the primary consideration, which is to effectively vaccinate against COVID-19.
And it wasn’t just the academic portion of the team managing the public’s expectations in such a manner. The CEO of AstraZeneca, when asked about the performance of their vaccine in comparison the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines argued that he believes that at some point in the future it will reach 95% and that they may well be able to publish date proving it at that time, at some point in the future.
Interestingly, it has been suggested that this statement by the AstraZeneca CEO was one of the main contributing factors in the AstraZeneca share price jumping by 4%, putting millions of pounds into the offshore bank accounts of those financially invested in the company. But I digress.
Of course by the sort of logic being used to defend this deal we should actually be giving everyone paracetamol. It is after all far cheaper, much easier to transport and store … and we might even discover in a couple of years that it sort of helps, at least with the headaches. Of course, unless I can get a paracetamol company to agree to donate 50% of the profits to the top 10 private schools, and invest the other 50% in a hedge fund run by one of De Pfeffel Johnson’s chums I am unlikely to get government approval for it. But it might be worth looking into.
As beneficial as the system is for those people who’s future wealth is tied so closely to this sort of cronyism, for the rest of us who’s lives and the lives of our loved ones are relying on a working vaccine we need more than just the hollow promises of a parasitic elite that has been caught embezzling public funds so many times before.
If we can’t trust our political systems to put our lives before the profits of their mates then it is time for a new system.